After nearly a decade of being secretly developed, the new B-21 Raider stealth bomber has been unveiled by Northrop Grumman in Palmdale, California.
Considered the first 6th generation military aircraft in the world, the B-21 confirmed the flying wing format, but the manufacturer and the US Air Force (USAF) this time took precautions to reveal only the frontal part of the bomber.
The stage for the presentation of the B-21 was the “Plant 42” of the USAF, the same place where in 1988 the B-2 Spirit was unveiled, a bomber that will be replaced by the Raider in the coming years, as well as the B-1 Lancer.
According to the airframer, the site currently houses the production of six aircraft, but there is no official information about the extension of the USAF order. The Raider’s first flight is scheduled for 2023.
Since signing the contract to develop the B-21 in 2015, Northrop Grumman has engaged a workforce of more than 8,000 people, including experts from within the company, industry partners and the USAF. In all, the project has 400 suppliers from 40 US states.
Priced at $ 692 million
“With the B-21, the U.S. Air Force will be able to deter or defeat threats anywhere in the world,” said Tom Jones, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems. “The B-21 exemplifies how Northrop Grumman is leading the industry in digital transformation and digital engineering, ultimately delivering more value to our customers.”
According to Northrop Grumman, the B-21 will be able to network across the battlefield to multiple systems and across all domains. The bomber is also designed to evolve during its lifecycle through rapid technology upgrades that provide new capabilities to address future threats.
The manufacturer has not yet commented on details regarding the aircraft’s performance or payload capacity. However, it is known for now that the B-21 will be a subsonic and long-range performance aircraft.
The USAF plans to buy at least 100 of the B-21s during the life of the program, which is expected to extend beyond 2050. Each Raider is priced at around $692 million, which includes the bomber itself, crew training , spare parts and support equipment.
That’s an exorbitant figure, but one that represents only a fraction of the value of the B-2, the most expensive aircraft of all time, valued at around $2 billion per plane.